The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Barry Robinson, Ecojustice / Tel: 403-830-2032,
Jeh Custer,
Sierra Club Canada / Tel: 780-660-5483,
Gillian McEachern,
Forest Ethics / Tel: 416.938.6032,

Syncrude Cannot Duck from Charges in Death of 500 Waterfowl

Private prosecution launched against oil company after governments 'stall'


One of Canada's largest
oil companies is under legal fire today for causing the death of several hundred
ducks in a massive toxic tailings pond in Alberta's Tar Sands last year.
Ecojustice lawyer Barry Robinson launched a private prosecution against Syncrude
Canada on behalf of concerned Alberta resident, Jeh Custer.

Custer, a representative of Sierra Club Canada, is
taking legal action to ensure the oily death of hundreds of ducks in northern
Alberta does not become status quo in the Tar Sands. Last spring, approximately
500 ducks died after landing on one of Syncrude's tailings ponds which cover
more than 50 square kilometres north of Fort
"Pollution from tar sands extraction is making the
environment too toxic for birds and people," said Custer. "The regrettable
failure of the Alberta and federal governments to enforce their own
environmental laws means that ordinary Canadians must
This morning, Custer took the first steps toward
launching a private prosecution in provincial court against Syncrude under the
Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, which prohibits the deposit of a harmful
substance in an area frequented by migratory birds. Launched by Ecojustice
(formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund) on behalf of Custer, the prosecution is
also supported by Sierra Club Canada and Forest Ethics.
In the days following the wildlife disaster, both
federal and provincial government officials vowed to take action against
Syncrude, threatening fines of up to $1 million. Environment Canada could press
charges under the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. The Alberta Department
of the Environment could lay charges under the Alberta Environmental Protection
and Enhancement Act. But nine months later no charges from either government
have been laid.
"The federal government has been ducking its
responsibility to ensure the environment and human health are protected in the
Tar Sands region. If Canada won't step up and enforce its own laws, we will,"
said Gillian McEachern of Forest Ethics.
Without prosecution, environmentalists fear more plant,
animal, and human life will be threatened by toxic tailings ponds produced
through Tar Sands extraction.
"It is important that environmental infractions are
prosecuted in a timely manner in order to protect both humans and wildlife from
prohibited activities," said Robinson. "We hope the private prosecution sends a
message that the needless death of 500 ducks is

As Canada's only national environmental law charity, Ecojustice is building the case for a better earth.